People with disabilities who are breaking barriers
There is often a lack of disability representation within mainstream media, which can sometimes make it difficult for disabled people to recognise themselves in the celebrities and famous people we see on our phones, in magazines and on TV.
Here are just a few of the many forward thinking people with disabilities, who prove that we're all capable of anything we set our minds to, regardless of ability.
The winner of the most GRAMMY Awards ever, Stevie Wonder is an impressive, world-renowned singer and songwriter. He was born prematurely and suffered from a condition known as retinopathy which caused him to become blind. Even as a young child he showed a great talent for music, initially creating rhythms and beats on pots and pans. Stevie Wonder taught himself to play both the drums and piano. Alongside writing his own music, he’s also gone on to write for other artists, including Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross.
Frida Kahlo was a renowned Mexican artist, well-known for her portraiture work, inspired by nature and the artifacts of her home country. At the age of just 6, Frida Kahlo developed polio, which caused her right leg to be thinner than her left. To build upon her strength, her father encouraged her to take part in what would have been thought as masculine sports, during the time period, including wrestling and boxing. Later in life, whilst studying medicine, she was involved in a serious trolley car accident, resulting in a broken spine and pelvis. She would be in pain from these injuries for the rest of her life. Whilst recovering from the accident, her parents encouraged her to paint, which led to her eventual fame. Many of her paintings depict the disabilities that she had and she has gone on to become one of the most important and celebrated artists of the 20th century.
Our local celebrity, Gregg Warburton, who lives in Leigh, is now recognised as the best wheelchair basketball player in the world. Shortly after he was born, Gregg had his feet amputated. He also had an abnormality in his left arm which meant it was shorter and he only had two fingers on his left arm. Despite the barriers that Gregg faced, he took up wheelchair basketball at just 10 years of age and collected numerous accolades and trophies across his school years. He made his first major debut at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, helping the team to bring back a bronze medal, at the age of 19. It was four years later, when he helped his team to beat Hamburg in a historic world championship, that he was named the most valuable player in the men’s tournament.
Lost Voice Guy – Lee Ridley
Better known by his stage name, Lost Voice Guy, Lee Ridley is a British stand-up comedian, best known for winning the 12th series of Britain’s Got Talent. Lee has had Cerebral Palsy all his life, which limits his mobility and speech. For this reason, he relies on a speech synthesiser to tell his jokes through. Lee has been credited for breaking barriers on the way that disability is talked about within the entertainment industry. He tackles subjects that others may perceive as ‘controversial’ and discusses topics that some people might be too nervous to talk about with a person who has disabilities. He has gone on to write his first book ‘I’m Only In It For The Parking’ and had a sell-out tour in 2019, with a new tour now announced for 2022.
A well-known TV personality and quizzer, Anne Hegerty is best known for being a chaser called ‘The Governess’ on the ITV gameshow, The Chase. Her outstanding level of general knowledge on the TV series showcases just how clever Anne is. In 2005, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which is a form of autism. People who have Asperger’s often struggle with social interactions and talking to others. She recently opened up about her diagnosis and how she deals with having autism whilst being a contestant on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and has become a symbol and figure of awareness to many people that live with Asperger’s syndrome.
Perhaps one of the most famous names in the world, Stephen Hawking’s is best known for discovering that black holes emit radiation, a huge triumph within the science community. When he was just 21 years old, Stephen was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neurone disease that causes an individual to lose control of their voluntary muscles, resulting eventually in paralysation of the body. Usually, the disease leads to death within about 4 years, however Stephen went on to live a further 55 years, and even went on to publish his book ‘A brief history of time’ in 1988 which went on to sell 250 million copies, 25 years after being diagnosed with the disease.